. . . and pigs like melons

“And pigs like melons” I was heard to say as my friend walked into the room. Normally it’s me that picks up on the tail of a conversation and gets the wrong end of the stick. His response: “Well maybe they were when you first got them but they’re a lot larger now” seemed hysterically funny at the time but I guess the wine had something to do with it.

Rearing a few rare-breed pigs, with an eye on the way they’re going to taste when they get to the restaurant, is a fascinating hobby. How they live and what they eat becomes an obsession. And the truth is that pigs just love melons and nectarines and strawberries; in fact anything that’s sweet. So if I throw a load of broccoli onto the ground in front of them, they’ll happily run over it, trampling it into a right mess, and follow me around with that expectant look of “Where’re the melons mate?”. But if I refuse to serve them anything else, hunger will ultimately drive them back to the broccoli. And when I visit them a few hours later, it’s all gone.

But I’ve got friends who watch me do this who think I’m cruel; forcing those cute little piggies to eat what they don’t want. Apart from not understanding that the pigs eat what I can get from the wholesale fruit and veg market, they really don’t understand.

We’ve got a cat at home. She loves that jelly meaty stuff that comes in pouches, the cost of which eats into my pension fund. Put some of that in a bowl along with a few of those biscuity things that cost half the price, she’ll carefully lick around the latter, abandoning the dry lumps. Put nothing but the dried food in her bowl and she’ll walk over to it, sniff it, stare daggers at me and walk away in a huff. However, if I remain strong, it’s funny how the bowl’s empty after 24 hours. Cats may be stupid – oh yes they are – but they won’t starve themselves to death. And neither will children.

It was always my philosophy: lock the kids in a room with a box full of greens and they’d rather eat the stuff – eventually – than starve to death. I can’t be touched by the social services now because the children have grown up and left home – at a run probably.

Well if I wasn’t quite that cruel, I did have great success in encouraging them to eat what they wouldn’t have naturally chosen. It stands to reason: put a pile of chocolate in front of a post-teething child alongside a pile of raw carrots sticks, he’s going to go for the chocolate, every time. Do the same the next day and he won’t even look at the carrots. After a while everyone will declare that he actually doesn’t like carrots. And then there’s no hope for the greens. Give it a few years and he’ll be on a very special diet because he’s now fat. And diabetic. I blame the parents.

We can all be conditioned. I used to hate sprouts as a child. But my Mum, every Sunday lunch (or so it seemed), would put just one Brussels sprout on my plate and ask me, not tell me, to try it before finishing my meal. With a screwed-up face, holding my nose and pretending to try not to gag, I’d force the offending green article down my throat. My parents thought it was dead funny at first but then, after being ignored for a few weeks, I quickly ate the sprout and got on with my meal. The funny thing is, I can’t remember when I actually started looking forward to Brussels sprouts. But I did, eventually.

And my theory’s still working. Transferred from humans it works with the pigs. Throw the food on the ground, watch them ignore it but, when you go back a few hours later, it’s all gone. All, that is, apart from onions, oranges and grapefruit. I’m still working on those. But they love apples which, somehow, seems right, symbiotic and, ultimately, tasty.

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